Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel has written a letter of support for Stephen Bannon, the recently appointed White House strategist who has been accused of harboring anti-Semitic views, thanking him for his “friendship with Israel.”
The text of the letter was reprinted by Breitbart News, a right-wing news website formerly run by Bannon.
In the letter, the Jewish Home minister wrote that although he does not know Bannon personally, “dear friends of mine including Rabbi Shmuley Boteach have shared with me your strong opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, which threatens Israel’s survival, your opposition to BDS and your opening of a Jerusalem bureau in Israel while head of Breitbart in order to promote Israeli point of view in the media.”
Since Trump announced Bannon’s appointment — along with naming Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus to be his chief of staff — some Republicans, Democrats and various Jewish organizations have denounced the decision, saying that Bannon represents a brand of populist nationalism that emboldens racists and should not be near the Oval Office.
But Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said last week Jerusalem was “looking forward” to working with the entire White House administration, including Bannon.
As executive chairman of Breitbart News from 2012 to 2016, Bannon pushed a nationalist agenda and turned the publication into what he called “the platform for the alt-right,” a movement associated with white supremacist ideas that oppose multiculturalism.
The right-wing minister also wrote that although he and Bannon do not see eye-to-eye on every issue, they both agree that “Israel, as the Middle East’s only democracy, must always have the strongest international support.”
Since Trump’s election, some on the Israeli right have lauded the president-elect as staunchly pro-Israel, citing statements made by an adviser that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians and that under a Trump administration, the US will not force Israel into a peace deal.
During the election campaign, Breitbart News was accused of publishing racist and anti-Semitic remarks. In one instance, it ran an article calling conservative political commentator Bill Kristol a “renegade Jew.”
Bannon himself has also been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks. His ex-wife claimed in divorce papers that he did not want his daughters going to an elite Los Angeles academy because he “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.” Bannon has denied the allegations against him.
Ben Shapiro, a Jewish former editor-at-large of Breitbart News, said last week that he never saw “any direct evidence that Bannon was an anti-Semite” when he worked with him, but witnessed his comfort with “pandering” to the publication’s fringe readership, many of whom are accused of holding racist and anti-Semitic views.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Saturday, Bannon denied the charges of anti-Semitism leveled against him, saying that “Breitbart is the most pro-Israel site in the United States of America.” He pointed to the website’s Jerusalem bureau, its stance against the boycott movement and rising anti-Semitism in Europe, as well as his Jewish partners and employees, as proof that he is not an anti-Semite.